How to impress college admissions while having an awesome summer

By Randi Mazzella
06/17/2016
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As an upcoming junior or senior preparing for your college search, you may be feeling conflicted about how to spend your summer — you want to have fun, but you also want to do some extracurricular activities that will impress school admissions. So how do you do both?

1. Be real

Colleges are looking for passionate students that will enhance their campus community. Spending the whole summer lying by the pool or playing video games is not the best way to demonstrate that. But doing things just to impress the college admissions' office is also not the answer. Spend your summer in an authentic way that aligns with your personal goals and interests.

2. Build on your passion

Summer offers you more time to pursue your passions than during a busy school year. Make the most of it! Work on skills in a way that is genuine but also looks impressive on your college application. For example, if you’re a competitive swimmer, continuing to train over the summer makes sense. But instead of just swimming laps on your own, consider volunteering at a program that teaches young children how to swim or work as a lifeguard at a local pool. These extracurricular activities will illustrate leadership qualities and an ability to work with others while also showing a commitment to accomplishing personal goals.

3. You can be impressive without being extreme

Summer plans don’t need to be elaborate or expensive to be impressive. If you love art, attending an art program in France where they work on skills and visit museums is awesome. But so is working at a local art camp. Both activities illustrate an authentic pursuit of an interest.

4. Take summer classes

Taking summer classes shows college admissions counselors that you’re interested in learning, even when school’s out. You can take classes at your high school or enroll in an academic program hosted by a college. Don't enroll in a summer program at a top college in hopes that this will translate into a college acceptance the following year. The only advantage these programs offer in terms of your college application is allowing you to know the area and school environment, which may help if they ask you why you want to attend the school.

Classes don’t have to be purely academic or for credit to impress colleges. For example, if you want to pursue medicine in college, you could use the summer to train as an EMT.

5. Volunteer

Volunteering is another great way to spend the summer. Colleges like students who are willing to use their free time to help others in need. You don’t need to volunteer in a faraway place to impress school admissions. In fact, volunteering in a place like Hawaii may come across as less altruistic and more like a cool vacation (which can still translate to an interesting essay about travel experiences.) How about working at a local food bank, spending time at a homeless shelter, or helping an elderly neighbor with their daily chores?

6. Get a job

Don't underestimate the value colleges will place on students who get ordinary summer jobs. Getting a job over the summer shows a college that you’re hard-working and willing to take on financial responsibility. And the money you earn as a counselor or working at a store can be used to offset college costs and provide extra spending money.

7. Be your own boss

If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, think about starting your own business. For example, if you’re into photography, start a business selling your photographs at an art fair. Or learn how to build a website and charge for your services. Colleges think highly of students who take initiative and are creative, independent thinkers.

Remember, it’s summer! You can totally be fun and productive!


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About the author

Randi Mazzella

Randi is a freelance writer and mother of three. She has written extensively about teen life and the college admissions process. Her work has appeared online and in print publications including TeenLife, Your Teen, Raising Teens, About.com, and Grown and Flown. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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